Edward Steele is at last on his way home and determined to be in Collingbourne before Christmasóbut that was before he met Denley and Osborne.
Sailing from Africa to England, Edward meets these two very different men aboard ship. Osborne chooses to ignore everyone while Denley and Edward find themselves much together. But as their journey continues, Denley begins to feel unwell. By the time the ship stops in Lisbon, Portugal, he is very sick indeed.
Not able to ignore his traveling companionís plight, Edward abandons his goal of going home and disembarks with Denley and Osborne. He never dreams that his association with them will lead to the mysterious Nicola Bettencourt, a woman who captivates and confounds him in equal measures.